There I was sitting in my regalia, half lost in a world of my own in the midst of a commencement speech that I won’t comment on. For the first time, my mind wandered to something I have always regarded cliche — what such an occasion meant to me.
I call it a cliche since it is one of those things talked about over and over, for centuries since the beginning of graduations. Commencement speeches have always trumpeted the message of what a graduation should mean to the graduates.
For a few minutes I was lost, making sense of such an occasion. Like in ‘Inception’, within the few minutes I was able to do much more in this world filled with thoughts and reasoning.
You see, for me as a foreign student, graduation symbolises a much different concept since there are greater changes to be envisaged. Obviously the normal ‘I am legally done with my first degree’ reality enveloped me when I was handed my scroll.
However, the biggest concerns were of the transformation that will happen in my life within a very short time.
My location will change, what I have been doing will be altered and I will be expected to take on new responsibilities in society.
Whether or not one is aware of such responsibilities it doesn’t matter. And whether one is prepared for such an adventure, the tides won’t care.
Then, it is good for one to be prepared for such responsibilities and adventure in order not to be perturbed.
For my devoted readers, the end of this month brings this column to rest. My thoughts will still be swivelling though not appearing in this usual Sunday spot.
My stream of consciousness on the issues I have been exploring will end. However, I refuse to say goodbye yet.
University symbolised a much freer, youthful and experimental ‘era’ of my life — a period where one feels like an adult but is not a fully-fledged one. It’s a period where many would still depend upon their parents for survival.
For me it was an important period as I became independent in various ways.
Being away from home, managing my time and other resources at my disposal, deciding when I should wake up or sleep, what I should eat were very important in preparing me for the next stage of my life.
Just like many who have studied abroad, this experience though it was very rewarding, never ceased to come with its challenges; getting used to the new environment, culture, people and all the unfamiliar. It was a pleasure to have experienced such challenges and come out better than all right.
But what was even more important for me was the self-discovery process, bit by bit, steps at a time.
My capabilities and weaknesses became more obvious during this period of my life.
Only by challenging myself and trying new things did I uncover the layers that make me.
Though sometimes it was scary knowing my weaknesses, it empowered me to be human. It empowered the innovative and creative part of me to search for solutions not only to correct but also to accept such shortcomings.
As the process of self-discovery never stops, I am excited to think of what lies in store for me with each passing day, month and year.
But the biggest part of any graduate is the journey he continues in a new direction.
I will leave Malaysia in a couple of weeks and a new path will be laid out in front of me. A different schedule from the one I have had for three years will start.
A time for new acquaintances and friends, a time for speaking another language is on my doorstep and a time for new food and culture is expecting to embrace me with open arms and a big smile.
And so it seems, a foreign graduate keeps on graduating from one experience to another, getting ready for new adventures. It is not just studies but also the food, people, and culture one has adapted to for the period while abroad.
What is going to happen to the ‘lahs’? I don’t know.
A friend of mine was telling me about his fear of the workplace. He was worried whether he would fit in after being a student for such a long time.
“What if I won’t be able to?” he questioned himself.
For many graduates, myself included, this question is never too far from our thoughts.
The challenges of learning things in class are moderate and even sometimes none compared to the real challenges one would face when heading into the ‘real’ world.
The actual market research might be much harder than it seemed in class. The theories I have acquired might be inapplicable in the workplace. Graduates will acquire new knowledge when they start working, things not taught in class.
Sometimes there is the worry of whether one has acquired the necessary employable skills.
Can I compete with other graduates from around the world? How will I fare on the list? This question can be answered if one is aware of the benchmarks and has worked hard to stay afloat.
At the end of the day, graduation promises me a passing phase and a new beginning with new adventures, challenges and growth.
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